Apologies fake and real

Celebrity fake apologies:

  • “I apologize if anyone was offended.”
  • “I misspoke.”
  • “Mistakes were made.”

These are not apologies, just damage control. But let’s tighten the screws a little. Normal person fake apologies:

  • “I didn’t mean that.”
  • “I never meant to hurt you.”
  • “I’m sorry that bothered you.”
  • “I’m sorry, but I’ve been under a lot of pressure…”

These are damage control too. In all likelihood you did mean it, you just didn’t mean for them to hear it. You did want to hurt them, you just didn’t want to take responsibility for it. “I’m sorry that bothered you” puts the guilt on the other party, and your circumstances don’t make it OK to sin against other people.

A real apology is two things: 1) an admission of guilt and 2) a request for forgiveness. Scripture gives us lots of examples. Here’s one I read recently:

For your name’s sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
(Psalm 25:11)

An admission of guilt (“my guilt is great”) and a request for forgiveness (“pardon my guilt”).

More information can be helpful as an explanation, but not as an excuse. Example: recently I blew off a friend for a phone call we’d scheduled. Twice in a week. Ouch. The second time he texted me to ask if we were still on, and I was out running errands. I tried to think how to express how badly I felt, then got distracted, and it was hours before I remembered to text him back. When I finally did, after apologizing I explained all this. I was totally at fault, and the circumstances didn’t change that. But it was good for him to know that I hadn’t been deliberately ignoring him all afternoon.

Fake apologies are easy, cheap and not ultimately helpful– they’re more to make ourselves feel better. Offering a sincere, heartfelt apology is the best way to move on from the offense. Even if you can’t do it right away because you have to think about what you really need to apologize for.

In the end, only Jesus frees us to offer a real apology. If we remember that we’ve sinned against God, it will be much easier to confess that we’ve sinned against other people as well. And if we remember that God has forgiven us, it will be much easier to ask others to do the same.

Now, who should you practice on?

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